elsewhen - 7:51 pm on Mar 7, 2011 (gmt 0)
@vanessafox i think your article at search engine land is a great proactive look at what can be done for those affected... but i worry that you are overemphasizing analysis of the rankings of individual pages.
sure the rankings of some pages are flat, some pages are way down, and some pages are even up for some of those affected... but does that mean that we can immediately assume that this is due to the algorithm looking differently at those different pages? i can think of at least three reasons why we shouldn't jump to that conclusion:
1) all of google's official language about this update is about sites and not pages... here are some excerpts (emphasis mine):
This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sitesó-sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites-ósites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
Sites that believe they have been adversely impacted by the change should be sure to extensively evaluate their site quality. In particular, itís important to note that low quality pages on one part of a site can impact the overall ranking of that site.
2) your rankings are not just about your site, they are also about sites that you compete with in the SERPs for particular queries. if a webmaster has a site that was dramatically affected by the algo change, and she finds a ranking that was not affected, maybe that just means that despite a downweighting, their site did not fall below the next highest competitor in that SERP.
similarly, we can explain a downweighted site that actually moved up in the ranking... perhaps it was because another downweighted site was more impacted because much of their incoming link equity came from other downweighted sites (and therefore they had the 1st and 2nd order impact of this algo change)... to give an example:
before the algorithm change:
#1 site A (about to be affected by algo)
#2 site B (about to be affected by algo)
#3 site C (will not get affected by algo)
after the algorithm change:
#1 site B (was affected by algo, but only directly, and moves up into the vacuum caused by the drop of site A)
#2 site C (was not affected, and moves up into the vacuum caused by the drop of site A)
#3 site A (was affected directly by algo, and also because much of their incoming link equity was diminished, because it was sourced from other sites impacted by the algo.
if you are the owner of site B, you may be tempted to think "oh my gosh, google loves that page because it moved up in the ranking," but in fact it was conditions around you in the SERPs contributed to your improved ranking, not anything in particular about that page.
3) google said that this algo change impacted 12% of searches... maybe those that see sections of their site not impacted and other sections dramatically impacted are just seeing this 12% at work. the sections that were not impacted were just part of the 88%, and the sections that were impacted were part of the 12%.
yes, in the end this is about pages, because pages are what make up a site. but, i think there is a chance that it is foolhearty to look at the impacts to particular pages and then assume that the pages that went up are the high-quality ones, and the pages that went down are the low-quality ones.
amit made it very clear that webmasters should improve the low quality pages on their site by saying that low quality pages can drag down higher quality ones... but that doesn't mean that webmaster tools ranking data necessarily uncovers the low quality ones.
to be clear, i am not saying you are wrong - rather, despite extensive analysis of this algo update, i haven't seen the evidence to suggest that you are right in the assumption that WMT ranking info can yield insight into which pages google now deems as high vs low quality.